Self Publishing Award Winning Books 2018

Each year, Outskirts Press nominates a small percentage of the books published during the year for submission to the EVVY Awards. Since a nomination is the first step toward the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award, the standards are high; we nominate, on average, just 2% of the books we publish each year-and these nominations represent the very best of our publications as determined by our executives and members of our production teams.

Outskirts Press official nominees and winners receive additional exposure for their books in featured Outskirts Press marketing channels, including our blog, social media networks, nationally distributed press releases and in our email newsletters. The finalists will be announced July 31, 2018, and award winners will be announced during an awards ceremony hosted by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association on August 25th in Denver.  I will be on hand to congratulate winners personally or accept their awards on their behalves if they are unable to attend.

To see this year’s Official Outskirts Press EVVY Award nominees, presented in no particular order, click here.

The steps to migrating toward RWD (responsive web design)

In the last post, I provided a general description of what RWD is, along with some of its benefits.  In brief, RWD websites look (approximately) the same on a variety of devices ranging from desktops to tablets to laptops to smart phones while functioning great on any device. I also mentioned that Outskirts Press is in the process of migrating its web presence to RWD.

The good news is, many of the websites where authors can learn about Outskirts Press are already in RWD, and these include all the social media sites that make up our Author Community — sites like:

Look at any of these links on a desktop, tablet, or phone and they’re going to look and work great. Our challenge then, is to migrate the rest of our web presence, namely our own pages, into RWD, too.  That’s the goal of our RWD Migration in a nutshell, and that is the process we’re currently involved in. Like all major projects, it has a couple of major milestones that increase in difficulty (and development time).

  1. Landings Pages
  2. Email Communication
  3. Newsletters
  4. Author Webpages
  5. Outskirts Press External
  6. Outskirts Press Internal

I’ll discuss each of these in turn, beginning with the Landing Pages next time.

What is Responsive Web Design (RWD)?

According to Wikipedia, responsive web design (RWD) is: “an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”

Typically a site designed with RWD adapts to the layout of the device being used (including the orientation of how it is being held—either horizontally or vertically) by using fluid, proportion-based grids (think Windows 8-10), dynamically-proportioned images, and CSS3 media queries. As RWD layouts becomes more sophisticated, the “grids” of earlier iterations of RWD are becoming more and more “invisible” and what is left is an enhanced user experience that looks fantastic, and acts the same, across any type of device.

Naturally there are some design challenges, considering that a desktop monitor can be over 2000 pixels wide while a mobile phone in portrait orientation is as little as 200.  This is very apparent on sites NOT designed with RWD in mind, since smart phones will typically shrink the entire website proportionally, often rendering the text too difficult to read.

So significant was/is this problem that most websites have “mobile versions” solely for the purpose of looking good on smartphones and/or tablets.  Of course, the challenges of designing something to look equally good at 2000 pixels as 200 often means the mobile versions look significantly different from the “normal” versions.  Good-bye branding.

page-2_img01-1An RWD website offers the solution to this issue by ensuring that the website looks as similar as possible across all devices.  It also eschews the need for an entirely different “mobile version”, which can save on development and on-going maintenance costs over the long haul. Developing and maintaining one RWD website is more efficient than developing and maintaining both “normal” and “mobile” versions of a website.  Additionally, Google “rewards” mobile-friendly (and particularly RWD-enhanced) websites by improving their organic search result rankings.

So what does any of this have to do with self publishing with Outskirts Press?  We are deep in the process of migrating our website to RWD to further enhance the publishing experience for our clients; so you could say it is on the top of my mind.  Over the next several posts, I’ll get into more details about that migration.

What is the best self publishing company?

With so much competition in self-publishing nowadays, how are writers supposed to determine the “best self publishing company” for their books? This is a particularly important question during National Novel Writing Month when 500,000 participants are going to have to choose a publisher for their book come December 1st.

It comes down to statistical analysis of multiple sources and reviews. This beats relying upon any single source (whether it be positive or negative) since it’s important to realize that single sources may lack knowledge, integrity, or applicability. Now that the Internet is replacing newspapers, we are bombarded with more information than ever before, but unfortunately, most of the Internet lacks one component that made newspapers and journalism valuable — the vetting process. You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet; you must do your own homework, and that involves researching numerous sources and then combining that data into a value system you can actually use.

And that brings me to a posting I originally wrote in 2010 to help authors with the process of statistically analyzing 3rd-party sources when making a self-publishing decision. I introduced 4 such sources to help writers compare the “best self publishing companies” in a logical, mathematical way.  By combining these various “reviews” together to arrive upon a “sum total” you are better equipped to see an accurate “average score” of the best self publishing companies for your book.

Here is a link to that December 20, 2010 posting, titled “Compare Self Publishing Companies“.

In the meantime, here are my NaNoWriMo stats for November 20:

Average Per Day 1841
Words Written Today 1582
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 36824
Words Remaining 13,176
Current Day 20
Days Remaining 11
At this rate, you’ll finish 28-Nov
Words/Day to finish on time 1,198

Winning word-count confirmation begins today at NaNoWriMo

“Winners” begin being crowned today on the NaNoWriMo website for successfully writing 50,000 words in … 20 days (10 days faster than required!). If you’re one of those overly-ambitious few, first of all, congratulations; that’s impressive! And secondly, reaching 50,000 is no reason to stop writing. I know I’m sounding like a broken record (do people even know what a “record” is anymore? ) by constantly repeating that we should all keep writing after 50,000 words, but I’m mostly doing that to encourage me to continue writing once I reach 50,000. I know it’s going to be hard since Idle Hands is on pace to be about 90,000 words,  50,000 words just isn’t going to cut it.  And like I said the other day, but it bears repeating again– one doesn’t publish 50,000 words.  One publishes a book.   And once you finish your book, where should you publish it?  Well, I’m glad you asked. Tomorrow we’ll talk about comparing the top self-publishing firms in an analytic way.

In order for NaNoWriMo to accept your word count you need to cut and paste your manuscript into their word-count validator.  Sounds easy enough, but I’m surprised so many writers are so willing to give their hard work to an organization without a second thought.  Perhaps I speak from experience, but some of the writers I’ve worked with exhibit hesitancy about sharing their work;  and that’s even AFTER a contract has been signed expressly protecting them and their copyrights.  No such agreement exists on the National Novel Writing website (at least, not what that I’ve seen, or agreed to).

I personally don’t have those reservations, because I know how official US copyright “works”, but if a certain percentage of our writers have expressed that concern (and that number is lower than the 500,000 writers NaNoWriMo claims to be participating in this year’s adventure), it surprises me that this isn’t more of an “issue” for National Novel Writing Month and its organizers, too.

It’s clear that it has come up from time to time because on their forums, they provide a link to another website that “scrambles” your manuscript for the specific purpose of only providing your word count to NaNoWriMo, rather than a book that makes any sense.  But that’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul — or, in this case, giving your manuscript to 3rd-party Website X in order to scramble it for NaNoWriMo.  Frankly, I’m surprised that’s even a suggested solution since an author who is worried about such things (which I already said I am not) is probably more likely to trust NaNoWriMo than some nameless third-party “scrambler” website.

Anyway…. here are my NaNoWriMo stats for yesterday, November 19:

Average Per Day 1854
Words Written Today 2231
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 35242
Words Remaining 14,758
Current Day 19
Days Remaining 12
At this rate, you’ll finish Nov 27
Words/Day to finish on time 1,230

My estimated day of completion moved one day sooner, to November 27th.  Of course, now the goal is to to keep it there, or at the very least, prevent it from moving later than the final deadline again…

Freemium Self Publishing

The November 5th episode of South Park, titled “Freemium Isn’t Free”, finds the boys addicted to “freemium” mobile apps.  According to Wikipedia, “freemium” is a term coined in 2006 and is the pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge; but money (premium) is charged for proprietary features, functionality, or virtual goods.

Apple and its iTunes app store received so much heat over “free” mobile apps that, in reality, are not free, that they had to re-identify them as “freemium” apps and disclose the manner in which those apps actually made money. It makes one wonder when other businesses are going to have to disclose the same thing?

What does this have to do with self-publishing? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Many large self-publishing companies use this exact same business model, although the population at large hasn’t quite identified the similarities between mobile apps that do this, and businesses in general that do this. But if you look closely enough, you can identify all the same practices, because some of the largest self-publishing companies are actually “freemium” in nature. They tout “free” on their website, but once you’ve drank the Kool-Aid, or downloaded the app, or whatever you want to call it, writers are discovering what they probably suspected all along: Nothing is free.  And suddenly they’re paying $999 for custom covers at Company C*, or $3,199 for book video trailers at Company L* —  services that they can get for under $299 and $499, respectively, at Outskirts Press.

Some of the most popular freemium mobile games right now are Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and The Simpsons, and it might surprise you to know that the average amount of money those companies make per user exceeds the $0.99 they would make if they simply charged for the game in the first place. The way freemium mobile apps manipulate you into paying is by wasting Earth’s most precious resource: time.

Freemium self-publishers use tactics that aren’t quite so obvious, but include overcharging for additional services (like the custom covers and book videos), overcharging for author copies, and the coup-de-grace: manipulating you into actually giving away your e-book to their customers under the guise of “marketing” (but, you only “earn the right” to do this if they have an exclusive on your book, thus preventing you from making money elsewhere). Talk about adding insult to injury.

Most authors are so attracted to the “free” part that they don’t bother to investigate their long term costs; if they did, they might be surprised to know that the average amount those companies make per user exceeds the $999 they would make if they simply charged for self-publishing in the first place.

There is no such thing as “free” self-publishing.  But there is freemium self-publishing. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

My NaNoWriMo stats for November 16th are:

Average Per Day 1764
Words Written Today 1611
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 28237
Words Remaining 21,763
Current Day 16
Days Remaining 15
At this rate, you’ll finish Nov 29
Words/Day to finish on time 1,451

*I don’t name self-publishing competitors on this blog, but it’s not terribly difficult to guess the culprits.

Best selling self published author

A week ago I mentioned one of our best-selling authors at Outskirts Press, Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmo, and her success with using social media.  The Self-Publishing News blog recently interviewed her, and here are some helpful excerpts from that interview for those of us participating in NaNoWriMo (and for all writers, come to think of it):

OP: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of becoming a published author?

MMCM: The most rewarding part is and will always be the ability Letters has to touch people. It’s crazy because I didn’t think people really read books anymore. But for me, having these girls go and buy my book, and spend their twenty dollars or so on Letters–it’s amazing, that someone believes in things still. People say my book has helped them heal, and that it has touched them, and that they have read and reread the book five or six times. It’s not a long book, but still! That’s the best feeling. A lot of girls and guys have hit me up, saying I inspired them to write again. It’s so great, because I’ve had people inspire me throughout my life, so it’s kind of like I’m paying it forward. I love showing people that things are possible. When I first saw Jennifer Lopez in a movie, you know, I was like–wow, a Latin girl on screen! I was being represented. It was so powerful. If I can be an inspiration to someone to write, to publish a book, that’s beautiful.

OP: What advice would you offer new authors?

MMCM: Go with your gut. Don’t write for what you think people want–write your heart. People receive honesty well, unless they’re your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Just be honest in your writing, and then publish it. Don’t go to the coffee shop where people are writing scripts and things like that when you’re trying to write something heartfelt; the city noise and the distractions will prevent you. Take that time for yourself. Imagine you’re meditating with your computer, with words. Really listen to your soul, so you can express what it wants to say.

OP: What does the average day look like for you, as a writer?

MMCM: I make time to write, and obviously I also write whenever I feel something specific move me. I’m constantly thinking of new material, so I’m constantly on my phone. Some people might think I’m texting, but I’m actually writing. Discipline is super important. With acting as well, you want to go to class–you want to make sure you stay on top of your game by auditioning. It’s an entire job just to get the audition, and another job to book it, and then another job afterwards. The same discipline I follow as an actor I bring to my writing. I wake up early every day and try to write something, whether it’s one paragraph or a chapter. Each morning at a given time, I’m writing.

You can read the whole interview at Self Publishing News.

Mirtha Michelle Castron Mármol’s book, Letters, To The Men I Have Loved, has been one of Outskirts Press‘s Top 10 Bestselling Books every month since it was published in June.  Mirtha Michelle Castron Mármol is known for her roles in the “Fast & Furious” franchise and the upcoming film, “AWOL-72,” and she keeps her fans and readers up to date on her activities through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Check out her hashtag, #MMCM, to learn more about her work.

I hate to change so abruptly from such an inspiring post to such a depressing statistic, but I didn’t get ANY words written to my book yesterday, so my NaNoWriMo stats for November 12 look like this:

Average Per Day 1628
Words Written Today 0
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 19545
Words Remaining 30,455
Current Day 12
Days Remaining 19
At this rate, you’ll finish December 1
Words/Day to finish on time 1,603

For the second time this month, the Stats are tracking me to finish AFTER the deadline.  I’d better pick it up!